Author: Sutirtho Patranobis
The views of the Authors are not necessarily the views of Enigmose
The novel coronavirus is ideally suited to infect human cells rather than animal ones, a new study by researchers in Australia claims, raising questions about the origin of the virus, which has until Tuesday killed over 3.18 lakh people and infected more than 4.8 million globally.
Using an “in silico” or computer simulation method, the researchers found that the data generated indicated “… SARSCoV2 is uniquely adapted to infect humans, raising questions as to whether it arose in nature by a rare chance event or whether its origins lie elsewhere”.
A team of four researchers, including two trained in India, tested the binding affinity of Covid-19 virus’ “spike protein” to humans and several animals including pangolins.
“Notably, SARSCoV2 spike protein had the highest overall binding energy for human ACE2 (a receptor on cells), greater than all the other tested species including bat, the postulated source of the virus. This indicates that SARSCoV2 is a highly adapted human pathogen,” the study found.
The study is yet to be peer-reviewed and is now available on the prestigious US-based Cornell University’s pre-print server.
An independent expert spoke to HT and said the research was plausible but the evidence put out to support it was thin.
China has consistently cited international research to deny that the virus originated in a high-security biology lab in Wuhan Institute of Virology. The central Chinese city of Wuhan is where the Covid-19 disease broke out late last year.
The four researchers of the paper, however, were surprised at the rapid rate at which the virus adapted to humans.
“Normally a virus will bind tightly to the cells of its normal host species and less tightly to cells of species it has not infected before. The surprise with Covid-19 is that we found that it bound tightest to human cells than any other species we tested. This is either a massive coincidence or Covid-19 has somehow, in the past, been adapted for human cells. One way in which this can happen is via culture with human cells in a lab,” lead researcher Nikolai Petrovsky, a clinician and vaccinologist, told HT over email. Full Article @ Hindustan Times
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